Love it or hate it, you’ve got to give Storm of Zehir points for effort. Developers Obsidian could easily have banged out a generic adventure for this expansion pack. Instead, they’ve produced a radical overhaul, one that’s not afraid to take a few risks.
They’ve turned the traditional Dungeons & Dragons RPG into a fantasy trading and empire building game. This doesn’t mean that the classic linear single-player narrative campaign is out; simply that it’s now complemented by a more open world, and several major new features for both the main campaign and for future mods that want to build more complex campaigns.
The first new feature is the party system. Neverwinter always let you control multiple characters, but in Zehir you’re forced to create a four person party from the outset, rather than recruiting them later.
In doing this, one thing immediately becomes obvious. Zehir damn well expects you to know your onions when it comes to D&D rules, and Neverwinter’s specific implementation. Creating four characters takes time, especially as you get a boost to roughly Level 3 before the game even starts. You can sidestep the process and have the computer do it for you, but it never does as good a job as you’ll get from manually massaging your stats and feats.
You start the game unarmed and under siege, fighting a small army of monsters, and Zehir is quite prepared to kill your newbie arse right there and then. Nor is death the minor setback it was back in the original game and the first expansion pack, Mask of the Betrayer. Without a Raise Dead spell or suitable magic trinket like a Coin of Life, most of your team can be taken out of action in a single fight. If nobody’s left to limp back to the nearest temple, consider your game well and truly overed. Thank goodness for the auto-save option.